Magical Realism in Of Love and Other Demons


With the unknown often comes the fear, and it is fear that drives the beliefs about religion that tells a story of a post-colonial society in Of Love and Demons. It is the clash of the old-world beliefs of witchcraft and the Western ideologies of Christianity that brings about a comparison of belief systems, but it also introduces the stigmas and superstitions associated with such beliefs. It is only when a person born into one world steps into the other that society takes notice. It is the mindset of the unknown that author Gabriel García Márquez uses the theory of magical realism to create a story that contrasts the social dictates of family to the cultural beliefs of religion. Rios defines magical realism as, “…the result of a unique fusion of the beliefs and superstitions of different cultural groups that included the Hispanic conqueror, his criollo (creole) descendants, the native peoples and the African slaves” (Magical Realism: Definitions par. 20).  It is this concept that Márquez expands upon the depths of magical realism to create a realistic illusion of the character Sierva María caught between two worlds not her own that destroyed her.

Neglected as a child and living among the slaves as María Mandinga, Sierva adopts their customs that contradicts the social dictates of her White world. But, it is the way she is characterized that merges the magic of the living and the dead.  Marquez describes the opening of Sierva Maria’s casket as, “….a stream of living hair the intense color of copper spilled out of the crypt” (Of Love and Demons 6).  The reference implies that only a creature of the supernatural could live on after death. But it is how she is described in the living that might offer the greatest assessment of her existence.  Marquez uses associative language like, ‘invisible creature’ and ‘satanic macaque monkeys’ and ‘full moon’ to further promote magical realism (Of Love and Demons 10, 11, 26).  Of course, slaves were quickly affiliated with such behavior because of their cultural practices of what was perceived as witchcraft.  Marquez explained that these practices, “…occurred among the population of blacks, who spirited away the victims to cure them by African magic” (Of Love and Demons 11).  It was quite easy to imagine how quickly society believed the child possessed since none of them knew of her neglect.  But, it is within the walls of the convent that the worlds of religion clash for Sierva since it is her first experience with Christianity.  The abbess says, “Satan knows what he is doing… Spawn of Satan” (Of Love and Demons 49).  From that point on, every unusual rumored occurrence was blamed on Sierva, such as, “pigs had been poisoned, that the water induced prophetic visions, that one of the frightened hens flew above the rooftops and out to sea,” (Of Love and Other Demons 51).  The stories lend credibility to the belief that only a girl possessed could pull off such magic in a house of God even though little more than word-of-mouth was her accuser.

Sierva Maria’s character was developed using expressive language that used magic as a way to define her reality.  Perhaps the ‘phantasmal’ Abrenuncio, her Jewish doctor, makes the greatest point in defining a theme when he says, “… blacks only sacrifice roosters to their gods, while the Holy Office is happy to break innocents on the rack or burn them alive in a public spectacle” (Of Love and Other Demons 53).  It is a startling conclusion that her life came to an end because the devil they wanted to exorcise was not in her but in society itself.  The differentials between the family, the slave culture, and the established religious society show that Sierva paid a high price for the conflicted beliefs of those around her. However, it also helped to define the strong and independent spirit of Sierva María that surpassed death.




Works Cited

Márquez, García.  Of Love and Other Demons.  (1994). Etext.  Retrieved on Aug. 28, 2016, from https://pdf.k0nsl.org/M/Mirrors/ptchanculto/Gabriel_Garcia_Marquez-Of_Love_and_Other_Demons.pdf

Rios, Alberto, “Magical Realism: Definitions,” Arizona State University.  1999.  Retrieved on September 10, 2016, from http://www.public.asu.edu/~aarios/resourcebank/definitions/


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